Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Nothingness is a huge part of everything

I ramble on a lot. I edit a lot, too, hard as that might be to believe, tossing out about 7 or 8 words for every one that I leave. Yes, I know, anything less than a 10:1 scrub ratio marks me as an amateur too in love with his darlings....

Mary Ann Reilly and I have never met, though we have collaborated on a project I tossed at our state  Ed Commissioner Christopher Cerf--ain't the internet grand? She's building a high school, one I'd like to be part of, but enough of the full disclosure nonsense.

I wrote this: "The atoms taught in elementary school  do not exist. If a nucleus is the size of a dime, the electrons would fling as far as half a football field, and even that's just an average. What's in-between? Nothing. Nothingness is a huge part of everything."

She wrote that: "Nothingness is a huge part of everything and there is never the accounting for nothingness in the slick state and now national standards. They are overfilled with their own self importance."

The national standards are like our universe 14.6 billion years ago--no space, no wiggle room, no humanity.

Life found in the spaces, in the niches, in the shadows of the corners works the same way as the stuff that spews forth in the elevated air of Mount Hubris. And matters just as much.

Thank you, Mary Ann, for helping me see this.

Mary Ann Reilly is an artist who is fascinated by edges, by borderlands.
The photo is by her, used without permission.


John T. Spencer said...

Joel and Micah just dug a huge hole in the backyard. I asked Joel why he dug it and he said, "It was fun and we thought we would find bugs." I asked Micah and he said, "So we can make space." Though his answer didn't win points in grammar, it had me thinking of the power of negative space.

Kathryn J said...

This is one of my favorite parts of Chemistry although I'm not sure I've convinced any skeptical adolescents. I can't show them that there is nothing. They can't experience it for themselves. They just have to believe me or a book or a website or...

The other concept that I try to help them understand is that everything - yes everything, even you and me - is made of atoms. All the "stuff" around them is made up of some combination of 92 elements listed on the wall of the classroom. Some start to understand this with enough experience with compounds and their formulas. Others still use phrases such as chemical-free when describing something. Bleh.

If we could teach what is amazing about science rather than the specified pile of hubris, more students would wonder and be intrigued.